The Making of Modern-Day Manila

Geographical, November 2008 | Go to article overview

The Making of Modern-Day Manila


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Manila, the capital of the Philippines, was all but flattened at the end of the Second World War. The war's conclusion saw independence granted, following a history of occupation by Spain, the USA and Japan. Most of these images, which were drawn from the archives of the Royal Geographical Society, show life in the city as it was around the turn of the 20th century, when native uprisings, combined with the Spanish-American War of 1898, forced Spain to release its 300-year grip on the nation

A street market, Manila, 1930. This scene has changed little in the intervening years and similar markets are still found today throughout Manila. By the time this photograph was taken, the USA had drawn a curtain on more than 300 years of Spanish occupation and was in the process of 'modernising' the country. US-style democracy was introduced and large numbers of colonial buildings were replaced by wide avenues. During the 1930s, the population numbered 600,000; today, the greater metropolitan area of Manila is home to around 22 million people

Right: horse-drawn carriages on a street in Manila, 1898. These colonial-style buildings were erected during the Spanish occupation, which began in 1565 with the arrival of the conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Six years later, following the defeat of the local Muslim ruler, Rajah Solayman, he established a capital at Manila, which benefited from the presence of a safe harbour in Manila Bay. Spanish rule brought with it the imposition of Catholicism, and any practices in Filipino culture deemed to be pagan were swiftly suppressed; Below: bargaining for pina, Luzon, Manila, 1906. Pina (Spanish for 'pineapple') refers to the fibres extracted from the leaves of pineapple plants, which have been used to make a lightweight, sheer fabric for centuries in the Philippines. The leaf must first be cut from the plant and the fibres pulled or scraped away from the leaf with a blunt instrument. They can then be mixed with silk to make pineapple silk, a highly desirable fabric used to make traditional wedding attire

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Above: a street scene in Manila,1930. Many of the houses lining this street are constructed from bamboo and are known as nipa huts. Like pica, bamboo features in many aspects of Filipino life: in houses, musical instruments and a variety of other everyday objects. Following the country's establishment as a Spanish territory, the majority of Manila's traditional buildings were replaced with colonial-style architecture. …

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